Tax Day Linked to Increase in Fatal Car Crashes

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The stress of filing taxes may slightly boost the number of fatal car crashes in the United States, a new study suggests.

On average, 226 people were involved in fatal car crashes on tax day — that's 13 more than the number involved in such crashes on days a week before or after tax day, the study found. Over a 30-year period, that amounts to about 400 more people involved in fatal car crashes on tax day, the researchers said.

Stressful deadlines may distract drivers and contribute to crashes, the researchers said. A recent national poll suggested tax day was the second most stressful day of 2011, they said.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, examined U.S. data on fatal car crashes from 1980 to 2009 in which at least one person died within 30 days of the crash. The researchers compared the accidents on tax days withthe accidents that happened on the days exactly one week before, and the day one week after, tax day.

Over the study period, 6,783 people were involved in fatal car crashes on tax day, compared with a total of 12,758 involved on the two comparison days. This translates to a 6-percent increase in people involved in tax-day crashes, the researchers said.

Although the trend of electronically filing taxes might be expected to reduce driving on tax day, the researchers actually saw an increase in fatal crashes on tax day in recent years. This may mean other factors, such as sleep deprivation around tax day, or increased consumption of alcohol, may be responsible for the link.

But the study did not have information on people's alcohol consumption, stress level or driving patterns, and more research is needed to determine the cause of the increase.

In the meantime, "public health campaigns should reinforce the importance of road safety on tax day, including emphasizing the need to wear seatbelts, avoid alcohol, reduce excessive speed, and minimize distractions," the researchers write in the April 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pass it on:  Slightly more people die in car crashes on tax day compared to the number that die on days leading up to or after tax day.

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Live Science Staff
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